Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: International (Page 1 of 2)

Found in translation: Dodgers push to make U.S. adjustment easier for international players

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodger minor-leaguer and Dominican Republic native Luis DePaula spoke at a local elementary school, as part of the Dodgers' transitioning program.

Dodger minor-leaguer and Dominican Republic native Luis DePaula spoke at a local elementary school, as part of the Dodgers’ transitioning program.

By Jon Weisman

In a recent piece for Dodger Insider magazine by Bob Harkins, we look at the extra steps the Dodgers are taking to ease transition of international players into the organization. An excerpt:

… The Dodgers are aggressive about helping their international signees as soon as they arrive at their academy in the Dominican Republic, Campo Las Palmas, and also every step of the way as they move into the minor leagues.

The education efforts go well beyond English lessons, as some players, typically ages 16-18 when they arrive, haven’t attended school since they were 10. They live and breathe baseball, but there is much to learn before suddenly being thrust into the American culture.

“These guys are developing life skills beyond just the cultural acclimation part,” Dodger senior manager of player development Matt McGrath said. “For us, it’s as much developing them as men as it is culturally or language-wise.

“We’re trying to make them stronger men, give them the ability to communicate across languages with teammates. That makes everybody better. That’s the ultimate goal of what we’re trying to do.” …

Harkins begins the story by talking with Juan Castro, whom the Dodgers first signed 25 years ago, to illustrate the evolution from then to now.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

* * *

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who wish to subscribe for 2017 can do so at

Maeda faces Marlins, Ichiro, Fernandez, history

Kenta Maeda meets Ichiro on Monday. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Kenta Maeda meets Ichiro on Monday. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Marlins at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Yasiel Puig, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Howie Kendrick, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

Kenta Maeda brings his 0.36 ERA to his fifth start of his MLB career, and he’ll face Miami ace Jose Fernandez on the mound and childhood hero Ichiro Susuki in the lineup.

Among pitchers with at least 30 innings before April 30, Fernando Valenzuela holds the top two spots for lowest ERA: 0.20 in 1981 and 0.21 in 1982. The lowest that Maeda’s ERA could get tonight would be 0.26 if he throws a shutout, which would put him fifth all-time in March/April behind Walter Johnson (0.24 in 1913) and Ray Sadecki (0.25 in 1968).

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Dodgers, fans raise $10,000 for earthquake relief

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The Dodgers raised $10,000 toward the Red Cross’ relief efforts for the devastating earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan with a pregame autograph signing featuring Kenta Maeda, Jaime Jarrin, Dave Roberts and Yasiel Puig.

Proceeds from the signings raised $4,500, and the Dodgers donated the remaining funds to push the total to $10,000.

In case you missed it: Maeda in America

Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers workout

By Jon Weisman

Kenta Maeda was the focal point at Camelback Ranch today. Ken Gurnick of illustrates …

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Dodgers sign Cuban RHP Yaisel Sierra

By Jon Weisman

Now the Dodgers have a Yaisel to go with their Yasiel.

Yaisel Sierra, a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher from Cuba, has signed a six-year deal with the Dodgers.

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Dodgers’ global profile underscored by new deal with Emirates

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline and Dodger President Stan Kasten, pose with Emirates staff Ben Platt/

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, and Dodger president Stan Kasten pose with Emirates staff this morning. (Ben Platt/

By Jon Weisman

It’s a sign of the growing international popularity of baseball in general and the Dodgers in particular that Emirates has become the official airline sponsor of the Dodgers.

In fact, Adrian Gonzalez will be among a contingent of Dodgers visiting Emirates’ home base (or plate) in Dubai at a future date to lead a baseball clinic associated with the local Little League, whose travel teams themselves will be renamed the Dubai Dodgers.

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The lowdown on new Dodger righty Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda pitches in the second inning against the MLB All-Stars at the Kyocera Dome during the Japan All-Star Series on November 12, 2014 in Osaka. (Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos)

Kenta Maeda pitches in the second inning against the MLB All-Stars at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome during the Japan All-Star Series on November 12, 2014. (Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos)

By Jon Weisman

Bolstering their starting rotation, the Dodgers have signed 27-year-old right-hander Kenta Maeda to a contract. Not just any contract, but an eight-year contract.

“We are excited to be bringing Kenta Maeda into the Dodger organization,” Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “We have had the chance to scout him extensively in Japan and on the international stage and believe he has all the tools to be a successful Major League starting pitcher. We were honored to hear of his strong desire to be a Dodger and that only added to our motivation to bring him on board. We look forward to Kenta adding another chapter to the Dodgers’ global legacy and to him strengthening our ballclub in the years ahead.”

Listed at a slender 6 feet, 154 pounds, Maeda follows a line of pitchers from Japan including Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Takashi Saito and Hideki Kuroda. He has a 2.39 career ERA in 1,509 2/3 career innings with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League, striking out 7.4 batters per nine innings.

By comparison, Kuroda — who also pitched for Hiroshima, from 1997-2007 — had an ERA of 3.69 and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings when he joined the Dodgers at age 33. Kuroda went on to have a 3.73 ERA (3.59 FIP) in his first season with Los Angeles and 3.45 ERA (3.55 FIP) in four seasons.

In 2015, Maeda’s ERA was 2.14 in 206 1/3 innings — his seventh consecutive season with at least 175 innings. He was fourth in the league in ERA and third in strikeouts, and won his second Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award.

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Cuban reunions and revelations for Puig, Kershaw

Photos by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Photos by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Cuba TripBy Jon Weisman

In between visits with kids of all ages on MLB’s goodwill tour of Cuba, Yasiel Puig had a reunion with his half-brother, as Kevin Baxter writes for the Times.

… While Puig is of Cuba, until this week he hadn’t been in Cuba for nearly five years. And that seemed like an eternity to Yoan Hernandez, Puig’s half brother.

“I missed him,” Hernandez said Wednesday, a day after an emotional reunion. …

Cuba Trip

Cuba TripIn addition, Clayton Kershaw met family members of his teammate and Cuba native, Yasmani Grandal.

… Yohandri Grandal and his father Avelino sat in the first row of the grandstands, watching the clinic. Baseball, and politics, have separated their family as well.

Cuba TripYohandri’s brother, Yasmani, a Dodgers catcher, left Cuba for Miami with his mother 17 years ago. The siblings have rarely seen each other since and Avelino said he hasn’t seen his son since 2010.

He got a little closer Wednesday when Clayton Kershaw, who is also participating in the goodwill tour, saw Avelino waving a tiny blue Dodgers jersey with Grandal’s name and number. So Kershaw walked over to the two men and reached up into stands to shake their hands.

For now, talking to the pitcher who throws to his brother is about as close as Yohandri figures to get to a reunion. But he’s hopeful the negotiations between baseball officials in the U.S. and Cuba can change that. …

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Alden Gonzalez of has more on Kershaw, who is the only player on the trip who doesn’t speak Spanish.

“They keep saying, ‘Baseball’s the way of life,’ but you don’t really know what that means,” Kershaw said. “Then you come here and you kind of understand. It’s so important, and it’s so new, too, this whole trip and what the people here can experience and what we as players can do. It’s just such new territory for us. I think the excitement of being here is infectious.”

Cuba Trip

One more piece for you: Over at Historic Dodgertown is a history of the relationship between the Dodger and Cuba.


Puig, Kershaw arrive in Cuba

(Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

(Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw and the rest of MLB’s goodwill tour to Cuba landed today. Michael Weissenstein of The Associated Press has more:

Puig, who fled to Mexico in a smuggler’s fast-boat in 2012 and then crossed the border to Texas, wrapped his childhood coach Juan Arechavaleta in a bear-hug, resting the side of his face atop the smaller man’s head.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said Puig, who had been barred from returning to Cuba until he was granted special permission for this week’s trip.

Still more on the trip can be found from Jesse Sanchez of and Kevin Baxter of the Times. In addition, The Players’ Tribune passed along this happy video of Kershaw.

Update: Alden Gonzalez of has a feature focusing on Puig, including this quote from Kershaw:

“I know I’m probably not going to be able to go to Cienfuegos, where he’s from,” Kershaw said of Puig, “but just being here, seeing the culture and being here, it can only help me understand him a little bit more as a person, and maybe give me a little bit more credibility with him. It’s important.”

Said Puig: “I’m very emotional about going back to my country, to spend some time with the kids over there. … It’s going to feel very good.”

Teenagers are no wasteland for Dodger international scouts


Yadier Alvarez

By Jon Weisman

Spending big dollars on teenagers from the international market — as in today’s nine international signings — involves no small amount of risk, but the Dodgers are clearly bullish on their new prospects, as Dodger senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes indicated in a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

Byrnes began by talking about 19-year-old Yadier Alvarez, the top-rated pitching prospect in the international market and a rare talent.

“He’s one of the more talented teenage right-handed pitchers who a lot of us who have been doing this a long time have seen,” said Byrnes, who added that Alvarez throws 97 mph, “occasionally touching 99-100, with very little effort and some pretty good feel for secondary pitches.”

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Dodgers sign nine international prospects, led by Yadier Alvarez, Starling Heredia

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By Jon Weisman

Today, the opening day of the new signing period for international players not subject to the MLB draft, the Dodgers announced the following signings, led by the most highly regarded pitcher in the market …

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Video: Hector Olivera works out at Camelback

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Here are some video highlights from Camelback Ranch of Hector Olivera, who officially became a Dodger on May 19.

— Jon Weisman

Adrian Gonzalez leads trip to Mexico


Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Adrian Gonzalez and his family will be joined by Fernando Valenzuela, Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten and Dodger executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen in Mexico City on Thursday for the Premio Nacional de Deportes (PND) ceremony honoring Gonzalez.

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What does Yasiel Puig’s page in a Japan Series program look like?

puig japan

It looks like this. Thanks to Ben Platt of for sharing. Drew Butera and the program cover follow.

— Jon Weisman

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Puig savors Japan trip, ready for more offseason workouts

Ben Platt/

Ben Platt/

By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig was so buoyed by how the Japan All-Star Series ended, he wishes the beginning had been longer. From David Venn of

Puig would suggest a slight tweak to the format. Like many of his teammates on the squad of MLB stars, the 23-year-old played much better in Games 4 and 5 of the series — the only MLB victories in the official five-game series — than he did in the first three. In Puig’s opinion, the guest team should have more time to work out and come together.

“They beat us those first three games when we weren’t in game shape, but now a few of us are indeed in shape,” Puig said before Thursday’s trip finale, an exhibition game against Samurai Japan at Okinawa Cellular Stadium. “I think we should play two or three more. The tournament should be a little longer.”

Puig was later asked what comes next for him:

“Workouts, to have a better season than the one I had last year,” said Puig, who hit .296 in 148 games for the Dodgers, with 16 home runs, 69 RBIs and an OPS of .863. “I need to keep working hard in order to keep growing in baseball and to get far.”

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